At the end of August, Penn welcomed new students to campus for the 2021-22 school year. There are 2,425 new students from 88 nations around the world and nearly all 50 states in the U.S. attending and living at Penn this year. “There is nothing like the energy that surrounds the week of Move-In at Penn,” says Penn President Amy Gutmann while on campus for Move-In. “It’s exciting to meet so many new students and their families and friends, and it means the world to me this semester to be able to safely welcome so many of our students to our now 13 wonderful college houses.”
New students gathered on College Green for the 282nd Convocation. Penn President Amy Gutmann heralded the Class of 2025 as the “most diverse, talented, and resilient class ever,” while encouraging students to think creatively and be curious. “It feels like the way I lived my life has kind of flipped over all at once,” said Anna Kwon Frankl, a freshman from South Korea in the College of Arts & Sciences. “Because I’ve been mostly staying indoors, especially with the pandemic, and suddenly I am meeting this whole diverse crowd, which feels like a complete 180. It’s been refreshing.”
Penn will use 100% of its allocation from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds to support students through emergency grants and fund COVID-19-related public health initiatives. “In accepting this round of federal emergency relief funds, it was very important to us that every dollar have a direct connection to students, either through direct grants to individuals or to support the incredible efforts put in place to protect students’ health over the past year and a half,” says MaryFrances McCourt, vice president for finance and treasurer.
Penn President Amy Gutmann announced the planning process to build a new 36,000-square-foot student performing arts center at 33rd Street and Woodland Walk. “We are thrilled to be undertaking this extraordinarily exciting project at Penn in support of the thousands of students avidly involved in the performing arts and the dozens and dozens of thriving, talented student performing arts groups on campus,” says Gutmann. “This project would augment the incredible resources now serving student-run performance organizations, with Platt Student Performing Arts House providing leadership in the creation and implementation of arts programming for students at Penn.”
One-hundred and forty-three members of the first residents to live in New College House West moved in on Friday, Aug. 27. Students were greeted by Penn President Amy Gutmann, who visited the new facility for a tour of the space. ““It’s so surreal,” says Yune Kim, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences from Knoxville, Tennessee, who is living on campus for the first time at New College House West. “It’s like, ‘Am I supposed to be here?’ Because I’ve been at home all year last year.”
David Hartt, an associate professor of fine arts at the Stuart Weitzman School of Design, displayed “The Histories” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of its “New Grit: Art & Philly Now” exhibition. It’s one of four museum exhibitions and two gallery shows Hartt is featured in this year in the United States. “A lot of the work is intellectual labor, and it’s about researching and understanding the dimensions of a problem or concept,” Hartt says. “It’s really exciting to be at Penn because I treat the work as scholarship. I’m not interested in a masterpiece or the myth of an artist laboring quietly in isolation. It’s about engaging with the world and trying to understand and put forward the complexities that you encounter.”
Penn Libraries has digitized more than 60,000 pages from more than 1,000 Penn medical student dissertations from the early 1800s. The project is part of a multi-institution-funded project. “We are hoping there will be a lot of interest in these dissertations, as you can get a sense for early medical education. And you can see intersections, for example, of medical education with gender and race,” says Mitch Fraas, senior curator of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.
The United States Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a key report in August that drew conclusions from more than 14,000 studies. Penn Today gathered thoughts from Michael Weisberg of the Department of Philosophy and Mark Alan Hughes, director of the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy. “The headline here is urgency,” says Hughes. “The science is just overwhelming and not just the climate science and the technology science but also the political science.”
Through the Center for Undergraduate Research & Fellowships and the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program, Francesca Ammon of the Stuart Weitzman School of Design was able to work with three undergraduate students to catalog and organize photographs of Sunset Boulevard by Edward Ruscha. The intent is to study the impacts of small-scale changes on the urban environment, examining changes from 1965 to 2010. “It’s more modest than large-scale demolitions that we’ve known are important but are not the typical story of what happened in most cities,” Ammon says.
In anticipation of Move-In, and in recognition that campus this year will be new not just for freshmen but many sophomores, Penn Today asked six undergraduates to share their favorite spots. Answers ranged from the LGBT Center to the engineering quad.
Working with two rising sophomores funded by the Center for Undergraduate Research and Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program, Penn Law economics professor David Abrams, who studies crime, examined how the crime rate was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the racial justice protests last summer. The team found that crime dropped as the pandemic hit; they are still researching the impact of protests on aspects of crime like police stops.
An initiative in the School of Nursing that places doctoral students into small peer-mentorship groups found that the model was an important supplement to one-on-one mentorship. “Ph.D. training requires content mastery and methods training. However, there’s also a ‘hidden curriculum’ that involves socialization into roles as junior scientists and new investigators,” says Dalmacio Dennis Flores, an assistant professor of nursing. “With this model, trainees have access to a cohort of peers in varying stages of their own training and a faculty member with insight on issues trainees may not be privy to yet.”
In Wired, Aaron Roth of the School of Engineering and Applied Science was quoted about his work on machine unlearning. While it is well-established that machine-learning algorithms can learn from and analyze data on its own, it is unclear whether they can unlearn data without rebuilding the system entirely. “This research aims to find some middle ground,” says Roth. “Can we remove all influence of someone’s data when they ask to delete it, but avoid the full cost of retraining from scratch?”
The Olympics of 1900, held in Paris, featured 13 Quakers and returned with 20 medals in track & field events. It was the first time competitors from Penn and women appeared in the Games. Alvin Christian Kraenzlein, a student of the School of Dental Medicine, took home four gold medals and has been called by the International Olympic Committee the “star of the  Games.”
For CNN, Marci Hamilton of the School of Arts & Sciences and Paul Offit of the Perelman School of Medicine co-wrote an op-ed “The Constitution is not a suicide pact guaranteeing a right to harm others,” they wrote. “The government has latitude to protect citizens from deadly conditions, especially when the science supporting vaccination is so clear.”